The 2013 Poker Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
The official induction ceremony for the Poker Hall of Fame — Class of 2013 — took place on Sunday night at the Rio. I was privileged to emcee the event, at the request of WSOP executive director Ty Stewart.
What an honor.
Being on stage among the Poker Hall of Fame members, both new and old, is a tremendous privilege. I hoped to give the induction ceremony the proper fanfare and reverence is deserves. In my view, the Poker Hall of Fame needs to be elevated greatly, and I was proud to see Caesars Interactive Entertainment (CIE), which oversees the entire process, put forth a fabulous show.
The reception and official ceremony were held at a really cool place which added to the atmosphere of celebration. The Winer Cellar at the Rio is somewhat overlooked, as it’s easy to miss when you walk by. After all, it’s actually in the cellar of the Masquerade Tower. Go downstairs and step inside, and it’s like you’re in France during harvest season. Wine bottles are everywhere. It’s like a cave.
CIE and the Rio put out a fabulous spread for the guests. Some of the best wines were poured freely (no Yellow Tail). I must admit, I had a tough time limiting my pre-speech wine tasting to five glasses.
The reception started at 5 pm. I’m sure you’ll be seeing photos and videos of the gathering in the days and weeks to come.
Then, at 6 pm we all moved into a nice ballroom where dinner was served. More than 100 invitees, VIPs, and poker royalty were present. I know I’ll miss some names, but among the guests I visited with were Jack Effel, Matt Savage, Brian Balsbaugh, Seth Palansky, Jessica Welman, Lon Mceachern, Mori Eskandani, Marsha Waggoner, and so many others. A lot of my freinds from the poker media showed up also, including (but not limited to) Mark Napolitano, Lance Bradley, Andrew Feldman, Vin Narayanan, Aaron Todd, Mark Hoke, KevMath, Jayne Furman, and others. The ceremony took place during and after the dinner, which was all first class.
Ty Stewart welcomed the guests and began the evening in grand style. Then, I took the microphone and added a few thoughts of my own. I thought the proceedings called for both a serious and humorous tone, and the presentation seemed to work most of the time. Scotty even heckled my speech a few times, so I must have done something right.
We also had a fabulous list of speakers, who came to stand with the Poker Hall of Fame inductees and give their perspectives as to why the inductions were so deserving. This list of speakers included Wendeen Eolis, T.J. Cloutier, Rick O’Connell, and Phil Hellmuth. We also heard from Tom McEvoy’s daughter, who gave us some wonderful remembrances of her father. There were some real tear-jerking moments.
Of course, the real stars of the show were Tom McEvoy and Scotty Nguyen. It was a highlight to see each of them walk to the stage to standing ovations and then pause at times to fully reflect on the glory of the moment and fully appreciate what the lifetime achievement honor means.
Tom was moved beyond words a few times. He called this one of the greatest moments of his life. It was nice to see Tom get rewarded for his lifetime of writings, poker accomplishments, and personal integrity. I know the honor meant a lot to Tom, and anyone who says he’s not deserving of induction doesn’t have their priorities straight nor do they understand that poker (and its advancement) deals with far more than just who wins at the table. Contributions away from the felt and towards gradual improvements that people don’t see (such as Tom’s crusade to make poker rooms smoke free) are just as important in my opinion. Then again, I’m biased.
Scotty was the closer of the evening, with good reason. No one, not even Hellmuth, can upstage “the Prince of Poker.” This time, we saw a much softer side of Scotty. He told about his personal struggles, his love for his wife Julie, and all those who have helped him over the years. Scotty had to stop a few times because he was so chooked up. We could all see this was a night to remember for him.
This year’s Poker Hall of Fame nominees all deserve our congratulations. It might be a cliche to say just being nominated is an honor. But it’s true. It was tough to pick from such a dignified list of choices that also included — Chris Bjorin, Humberto Brenes, David Chiu, Thor Hansen, Jennifer Harman, Mike Matusow, Carlos Mortensen, and Huck Seed.
In the end, two people who merit induction were selected by a combination of the public, media, and living Poker Hall of Fame members. The poker community has spoken, and the consensus for 2013 is that Scotty Nguyen and Tom McEvoy were the most deserving nominees.
One final thought on the process: I was glad to see many foreign-born and based players on this year’s list. I think we are headed in the right direction, but the Poker Hall of Fame does need to give more consideration to people who have made an impact outside the United States. I am confident this will happen in the years ahead. There are too many deserving people who live in other countries to not get their time in the spotlight.
Coming up next is the World Series of Poker Main Event final table. The championship begins tonight here in Las Vegas and will conclude on Tuesday with the crowning of the 2013 world champion.
I can’t wait.
To read more about the Poker Hall of Fame induction ceremony and the upcoming Main Event Championship finale, please visit: WSOP.COM